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AFL-CIO for Pol 2002 + Boxes

AFL-CIO for Pol 2002 + Boxes

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Published by: CFHeather on Feb 25, 2011
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Making a Mess Abroad: 
The Foreign Aid Policy of the 'DecidedlyInternationalist' AFL-CIO 
Peter Waterman - 2002
The Email dialogs
 Kim Scipes, a former trade unionist now living in Chicago, has been campaigningover the last years for an opening of the books on the international policy of the 'old'AFL-CIO, with respect to the Pinochet coup in Chile, 1973. Now he is questioningthe policy of the 'new' AFL-CIO with respect to the attempted coup in Venezuela and,most-recently, to Cuba. (Scipes 2000, 2002a, b). In response to such challenges, Stan Gacek, a leading International Departmentofficer, issued a public response which later appeared on the AFL-CIO website (AFL-CIO 2002). The speed of this response, and its reproduction on the website is, in myexperience, an innovation. But, apparently, an innovation of restricted application.
Ina further reply to Scipes on the Cuba funding, which has not been publicly circulated,Gacek declared that 
'In response to…your e-mails, you should know that the Solidarity Center is NOT receiving anyfunding under the USAID/Cuba Program of May, 2002.' (Forwarded email, June 26, 2002)
Puzzled by this odd formulation, and wondering whether Kim might have maybemade a loose accusation, I re-read his email but then realized that the problem wasnot a loose accusation but, rather, a tight answer – a legalistic formulation which didnot address the substance of Kim Scipes' question - or even the detailed US statefunding data Kim had provided! My own experience, after annotating and forwarding a story I had received, onfunding for the 'reformed' unions in Venezuela (Waterman 2002), was of receiving,privately, from friends close to the AFL-CIO, emails to the effect that I was not onlyundermining committed reformists doing good solidarity work within thatorganization but possibly endangering lives by raising the matter! In one case I was pointed to a union leader in a third country, who might tell me whatgood work the AFL-CIO was doing under extreme conditions there. I did not followthis up, since I would not expect a hard-pressed union leader, receiving funding orother support from a foreign source, to publicly express anything but gratitude, almostregardless of the original source of such funding – which the AFL-CIO is anywayunlikely to draw prominently to his or her attention.
New lamps for old
These exchanges raise questions about how, precisely, the ‘new’ AFL-CIO aid policydiffers from the ‘old’ - apart, of course, from the rhetoric.
(Remember, we areconcentrating on 'aid' here, not on other problematic areas of recent activity, having todo with a renewed wave of protectionism that allies US unions with US corporations,nor with AFL-CIO identification with the US's  'savage wars of peace' – for which seeBox 2). The source of funding for AFL-CIO aid activities remains 1) the US state and/orstate-dependent foundations, and 2) US embassies in specific countries – the latterreportedly being by far the most important source (and one even harder to obtaininformation on). The 'new' AFL-CIO, moreover, remains intimately involved in theState Department's international labor operations – though for this information onehas to go to the latter rather than the former (US State Department 2000). The International Department's mode of operation remains that of doing good bystealth and wealth. The American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILSor the Solidarity Center) has no website and apparently does not issue any publicaccount of its activities, nor any accounts of its incomes and outgoings. Perhaps itdelivers such information to
funders, or the US tax authorities, but not
the public. It here appears to have less obligations to its ‘stakeholders’ than anypublicly-floated corporation to its shareholders. There can be no doubt that, as in thepast, the State Department, CIA and FBI, are better informed about the SolidarityCenter than any labor union member or officer in the USA
[Box 1]
                     And if the International Department of the AFL-CIO is itself fully informed, ratherthan turning a blind eye, it is not telling us either. For information, critics are dependent on the
of such funding (who are
  BOX 1 Jay Lovestone, AFL-CIO leader, CIA Collaborator 
Not so much by their anti-Sovietism as their secretiveness…Lovestone and his allies overstepped their mandates and thereby made it more difficult for American labor to build or rebuild, an international program […] Lovestone's legacy is clear: Not only was he operating without the informed consent of American labor union members, he was acting against their interests. 
(Dashiell Shenk 1999).
either under legal obligation, or are only too proud to boast of, or boost, theirfurtherance of US state interests), on US critics of the AFL-CIO (who may or may nothave done their homework). But we have no access to the horse’s mouth, nor even tosome radical-democratic deep throat within the AFL-CIO (though here, of course,one lives in hope). In the absence of information, we have to assume that ‘reform’ of the InternationalDepartment means reform
the 'AFL-CIO-CIA' of the Cold War years.Reformists seem to consider that by re-directing some – even, who knows, all? - of the funding effort to ‘good’ unions in Latin America or Indonesia, to the Ukraine orZimbabwe, they are forwarding solidarity between US unions and workers, PoorWorld unions and workers. 
The meaning of international labor solidarity
 In so far as unions and workers at either end may not even
of this funding, sucha purpose can hardly be achieved. In so far as the funding relationship is in practice one between a handful of officers atboth ends, then maybe it furthers relations of trust between them. Thus, the radicalBrazilian, Kjeld Jakobsen, International Secretary of the equally radical Central Únicade Trabalhadores appears alongside Harry Kamberis (Cold War AFL-CIOapparatchik, secretive head of its Solidarity Center), when the latter promotes neo-liberal democracy, under the aegis of another US state-dependent operation, theWorldwide Movement for Democracy (2000). But this then has surely to be callednot
solidarity but something like
the international solidarity of ahandful of union officers
. The relationship can hardly be even considered solidarity if it implies a one-way flowof funding, staffing and support from one party to another. This is, at best, a‘substitution solidarity’ - one in which the ‘rich, powerful, informed, generous’ partysupports the ‘poor, weak, ignorant, needy party’. About which see either version of the 'White Man's Burden'
[Box 2, 3]
  In pre-modern times this was called 'charity'. Or a patron-client relation. In modern times it was called a 'civilizing mission'. Or a patron-client relation. In high modern times it is called 'trade union development aid'. Or a patron-clientrelation

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